Required Reading as I Remember It, Episode 1: Johnny Tremain

Today I was spending some time thinking about the dystopian society in which retired cereal mascots must live under the tyrannical rule of Colonel Sanders, Dave Thomas, or Fred the Donut Baker depending on the sugar content of the cereal that had forsaken them, as usual. You’re probably thinking it would be pretty cool if I laid all the details of what happened in the sad afterlives of the Cookie Crook or Wendell the Baker, but that’s another article. Actually, it might not even be an article so much as it is a mural I need to have commissioned. It’s a very serious undertaking for me considering the only biopic of Wendell the Baker, titled The Wendell Baker story, is grossly inaccurate and doesn’t mention Cinnamon Toast Crunch even once. Perhaps there was some kind of licensing issue with General Mills?

This gentle baker got away with murdering his team after a particularly soggy batch of CTC.

This gentle baker got away with murdering his team after a particularly soggy batch of CTC.

Anyway, that got me thinking about other dystopian societies, which in turn got me thinking about all the required reading I had to do throughout my education. (Required reading is wrought with images of worlds that are only slightly less depressing than being an adult.) All those hundreds of hours spent reading books when I could have been playing Nintendo. What was I supposed to have gotten out of that? A more informed world view? I don’t have that. Should it have made me a better person? It didn’t. Could I even remember what some of these stories were about? I don’t know, probably. I’m going to try to recount some for you.

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Why I Switched from Kindle Fire to iPad

iPad with Keyboard Case.

Some months ago, one of my first kittensharks articles was a review of Amazon’s Kindle Fire; I discussed the purchase in terms of what made me decide to buy it instead of an iPad ($$$) and what I found useful about it in terms of my life and how I would be using it. These are pretty general terms for a review, and I still think that, at that time, I made the right decision. Things changed a few months later and I needed more productivity than the Kindle Fire could provide, so I was forced to make a change in devices. Here is the story about how and why I bought an iPad as well as a description of its usefulness to me.

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Reading with Zelda: A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea written by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea, Michael Ian Black & Kevin Hawkes

In preparing for the extremely exciting release of Michael Ian Black’s new book, You’re Not Doing it Right, I decided to read or re-read any of his books that I had missed during the long, long wait until February 28, 2012.  Luckily, almost everything is available for Kindle Fire and I had a long trip on MegaBus to do nothing but read or sleep.  And I can sleep when I’m dead!

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea is a delightful picture book for children that teaches a valuable lesson: pigs are bad at parades.  Mr. Black is able to categorically refute any claim anyone could ever have to the contrary, which is important because kids often have silly ideas about things and adults need to stop them from being idiots.  They can’t do it on their own yet.  As for adult readers, the writing style is perfect for a children’s book but manages to keep that something special we have come to expect from Mr. Black while keeping clear of the explicit and acerbic wit over which he is king.

The illustrations are fantastic!  I can’t think of anyone who could better draw the words in this book.  Moreover, the pictures are lovely little stories on their own even for children who want to thumb through the pages but can’t read the words on their own.  This is definitely a book that holds up for all ages in that respect; whether it is simply a picture book, a book someone reads to a child or a book read alone, it is sure to please.

Pick this up at your local bookstore or wherever/however you buy books.  I don’t care if you have kids or even if you know any.  Get on it.  NOW.  And don’t forget about this!

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea by Michael Ian Black and Kevin Hawkes



Reading with Zelda: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel is a fantasy novel and book one of The Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix.  It was recommended to me via Amazon’s bookstore on the Kindle Fire, I assume, because I had recently purchased digital versions of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books and some other fantasy stuff.  I did my usual investigation into a recommended book, which is a few steps long and not unique to me, I suspect:

  1. Look at the cover art.  Is it stupid?  Does it evoke any interest in me? – The answers were that it was not stupid at all and definitely made me interested.

    Sabriel by Garth Nix

    I adore the paint style of the cover artists (Leo and Diane Dillon).  Did I judge the book solely on the cover?  No, but I do that all the time and I’m usually right, so I could have stopped here and been happy.  Take that, naysayers.

  2. Read a few reviews on the Amazon website.  The overall stars were pretty high, and, for the most part, people seemed to be into it.  There was one review which suggested it was a great concept but poorly executed.  This didn’t stop me because that sounds like something an idiot would say.
  3. Download the sample and read it.  I did this very quickly; the opening of the book tells the very interesting (but mysterious) story of the birth of our heroine and title character, Sabriel, and reveals the interesting career of her father, Abhorsen as well as gives us an enticing first look at one of the three primary geographic locations in which the story takes place: Death.  It sold me; I bought the book as soon as I reached the final page of the sample and immediately read on. Continue reading

Reading with Zelda: Prologue to Book Reviews & Why I Bought a Kindle Fire

When I got my Kindle Fire, one of the reasons I was all about it was that I travel a lot (mostly between Boston and Washington, D.C., which is like 9.5 hours on MegaBus), and I need something to do.  Carrying around several entertainment devices was getting painful, especially big heavy books.

Zelda’s real, live cat.

Books are also expensive, and they take up a lot of space that could also be used for other things that don’t translate into digital use very well like clothes or cats.  (I’m not trying to knock Purr Pals or anything; I love that game, but I love my real live cat more.

So, anyway, I got a Kindle Fire, and it was cool.  I’d obviously rather have an iPad, which is better by like, a million billion, but I don’t have the spare cash for that so, regardless of mixed comparison reviews, I think the Fire is a great alternative for less than half the cost.  Specifically, I enjoy the use of the Amazon account integration and the almost immediate availability of good books made to work with all Kindles and especially Kindle Fire.  They do a good job of suggesting shit you’d like (as do most sites) and allowing you to sample quite a good selection at the beginning before you make a purchase.  What I mean is, you get to read more than a stupid paragraph; they give you something to really chew on before cutting it off and saying you can buy it for more.  In my experience, if by the time I get to the purchase option I am thinking, “holy crap I’ll buy it but I wanna read the next page noooooow” then it is probably worth the usually $6-15 I have spent. Continue reading